Picture from "The Library Dragon" by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrations by Michael P. White

"Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist.
Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed."
- G. K. Chesterton

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A good book - a good cry

Great, another children’s book that made me cry. I've had to read a couple of these lately for a class I'm taking.  Then I have to write about them.  So I figured that since I haven't had time to blog since I went back to college maybe I would share what I wrote about this book here too.  The book, Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher is the story of a boy who stumbles upon a mysterious shop, Elives’ Magic Supplies, and is chosen by a dragon’s egg to be its hatcher. Just like in those books where you just know the dog’s going to die in the end, so too do we know that Jeremy will care for and fall in love with his hatchling only to have to let her go in the end. Jeremy’s mentor on this journey, “the long-haired children’s librarian,”  Miss Hyacinth Priest, has these words of wisdom for Jeremy as he faces saying good-bye to his dragon, Tiamet:
“Nothing you love is lost. Not really. Things, people – they always go away, sooner or later. You can’t hold them, any more than you can hold moonlight. But if they’ve touched you, if they’re inside of you, then they’re still yours. The only things you ever really have are the ones you hold inside your heart” (Coville, 138)

Having lost my share of people and things in life, this was the part that got me crying. It also got me thinking. This would be a really good choice for any young (or old) person struggling with loss. The book deals with Jeremy’s loss very realistically. Jeremy cries, gets angry, becomes withdrawn and loses interest in people and things that were once important to him. He starts seventh grade and “moved through the halls as if he were just visiting, never becoming a part of it.” (Coville , 144)

Ultimately, Tiamat, his dragon, does comes back to him. While she will never be a part of his world, she is back inside of his head and he’s inside of hers, whether through magic, imagination or dreams, we can’t say for sure. Perhaps the ending ties things up a little too nicely and one could argue that it gives children suffering real loss artificial hope, but as Lloyd Alexander is quoted as saying, “Hope is one of the most precious human values fantasy can offer us – and offer us in abundance.” (Tunnell, 105) In the face of crushing loss it just might be the glimmer of hope offered in Coville’s little dragon fantasy that helps a child make it through another day.

Coville, Bruce. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991.

Tunnell, Michael O. and James S. Jacobs. Children;s Literature, Briefly. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey : Pearson, 2008.